Photo by Derrick Mahone
Mundy's Mill running back Rodney Smith has been one of the few bright spots for the Tigers this season.

Photo by Derrick Mahone Mundy's Mill running back Rodney Smith has been one of the few bright spots for the Tigers this season.

Most teams are making that final approach to securing postseason playoff berths. We take a look at what teams are making the grade, and which needs some improvement for the second half of the season.

Drew (4-1)

Four years after opening its doors, Drew has developed into a playoff contender. Patience has finally paid off for coach Jarrett Laws as his team could position itself to host a first round playoff game. With the graduation of several of its speedy skill players, the Titans more known this season for its defensive unit. A running back by committee approach has been carrying the offense.

Our grade: Pass

Forest Park (0-5)

In the preseason first year coach Don Williams said that the turnaround job the Panthers needed would be no quick fix. And the first four games of his tenure have proven his words true. Forest Park hasn’t just lost. It has lost badly. The Panthers have been outscored 155-13 on their way to an 0-4 start. Tonight they begin what Williams has called the “second season,” when they open Region 4A-AAAA play against Drew. Junior running back DeJuan Simms has been a bright spot. Simms has reeled off several 100 yard rushing performances so far this season.

Our grade: Needs improvement

Jonesboro (4-1)

New quarterback? No problem. Most times breaking in a new starting signal caller becomes impetus for angst and trepidation among a coaching staff. Not so with the Cardinals. Class AAAA’s seventh-ranked team has enjoyed a 4-1 start — and was just one point away at Griffin from being unbeaten —through the steady play of junior quarterback Mario Atkinson. Atkinson has completed 56-of-96 passes for a Southern Crescent-leading 929 yards with 10 touchdown tosses to just two interceptions. It doesn’t hurt that he has one of the best corp of receivers in the state in Taurean Ferguson and Cameron Sutton. Along with fellow senior Patrick Petty, the trio also makes up a solid secondary.

Our grade: Pass

Lovejoy (4-1)

Class AAAAAA has been kind so far to the back to back AAAA region champion Wildcats who were also last year’s state title runner up. Five Division I commits adorn the roster and coach Al Hughes’ team is loaded with young talent behind the veterans who should keep the Lovejoy machine humming in the future. Quarterback Alejandro Bennifield has thrown for 899 yards and 13 touchdowns to arguably the most talented receiving corp in the area. Travis Custis, who recorded his first 200-yard performance of 2012, looks primed for a big finish.

Our grade: Pass

Mundy’s Mill (1-4)

New coach Greg Manior is still in search of his first win with the program. The Tigers have played one of the toughest schedules in Class AAAAA with their opponents having a 16-4 combined record. Two of the opponents — Lovejoy and Coffee — are in higher classifications. Junior running back Rodney Smith has been a bright spot for the Tigers as he has rushed for over 400 yards on the season. He has also had a pair of runs over 60 yards.

Our grade: Needs improvement

Morrow (1-4)

Of Clayton County’s four rookie coaches, the Mustangs’ Larry Foster may have inherited the best situation. Despite coming into the season fresh off an 0-10 2011 campaign, Foster has an athletic bunch. Quarterback Courtney Heard is a run-pass threat and wide receiver Sterling Taylor has been a spark for the offense. Morrow’s best remaining chances at victory may be October 26 against 0-4 Luella or November 1 against a Druid Hills team that was smashed 58-3 against Lovejoy last week.

Our grade: Needs improvement

Mount Zion (0-5)

Ervin Starr hasn’t given up on the season, but he hasn’t been shy about his intentions of preparing for the future either. With a good amount of seasoned veterans returning including three-year starter at quarterback, Montel Buchanan, the Bulldogs had high hopes for the season. But an assortment of injuries have plagued Starr’s first team. Starr is hoping that a spark from young upstarts like sophomore quarterback Michael Scott and freshman safety Timotheous Slade can energize Mount Zion as it begins region play.

Our grade: Needs improvement

North Clayton (0-5)

You have to go all the way back to 1991 to find the last time that North Clayton started a season 0-5. During that year, the Eagles lost their seven straight before finishing 1-9. The lack of depth has been a problem, but some players that coach Max Wiltz had counted on hasn’t produce. On a bright spot, senior running back La’Darrius Mathis has rushed for over a 100 yards in four games. The Eagles streak of four straight playoff berths appears to be in jeopardy unless they can turn things around quickly.

Our grade: Needs improvement

Riverdale (4-1)

The Raiders were expected to be vastly improved in Olten Downs second year in leading the program. The four wins already equals last season total, and the Raiders still have at least five more games to play. An improved special teams and a potent ground attack has been a big key. Running backs Kamhad Magwood and Ti’Keem Cooper has been a powerful 1-2 punch for the offense. Linebacker Troy Wyche has been the leader on defense. Cooper has three kickoff returns this season for touchdowns to lead a dangerous special teams unit.

Our grade: Pass